Undoubtedly, this is a massive, highly personal topic. For me though, ‘the best year in gaming’ means both a year with a high quantity of quality titles, plus one which had a massive impact on the industry moving forward.
Once I had realized these were my major associations, only one year came to mind. Featuring titles that were infinitely memorable, impactful, and had replay value in spades. Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to refamiliarize you with the criminally underrated 2009…
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Simply put, it’s the best Call of Duty ever made; the peak of a series spanning a decade and a half. Modern Warfare 2 best captured what makes Call of Duty great: fast-paced action, ridiculous storylines, and a constant sense of being rewarded. Unlike other shooters, the relationship between the player and their arsenal is almost symbiotic. With each weapon behaving differently but providing a level of satisfaction from merely engaging with the shooting mechanics that remained over weeks’ worth of playtime (particularly true from a personal standpoint).
The crowning jewel in Modern Warfare 2’s empire was it’s multiplayer, which featured one of the greatest selections of maps ever assembled. To this day, people still suggest a 1v1 battle on Rust to resolve any disagreements they may have. Everything was just amplified from any previous outing, the ‘turned to eleven’ standards that every entry in the series has tried to emulate.
The killstreaks were more interactive and dominated the battlefield, attachments and perks could really cater to individual play styles or party modes, and we were treated to a wholly separate Spec Ops mode which gave players unique challenges to really test their skills. When this game was announced for backward compatibility last year, people lost their minds, and for good reason; the king was back.
Wii Sports Resort
It’s extremely easy to overlook the casual titles released over the years, since we usually associate this label with games that don’t have much of a lasting impact, or those that are mechanically released for a quick cash grab to not much success. Yet, 2009’s second best-selling game of the year, behind only the behemoth that was CoD, was this fantastic title. If the game wasn’t enough alone, the free MotionPlus attachment that came bundled with Wii Sports Resort greatly increased the accuracy of the already intuitive Wiimote, simultaneously making the title more accessible to newcomers than ever, whilst also expanding the range of activities available; both on the Resort and beyond.
Capturing everything you’d expect from a party game, plus some of that classic Nintendo polish, this is still one of the best games to play in a room full of people since it is almost as fun to watch as it is to play. Probably the most personal choice on my list, but I get the feeling that this is pretty universally regarded as a family favorite, each with their own tales of sportsmanship. My Dad and I have a pretty serious table tennis rivalry, and I think it’s impossible not to break out into a smile watching your ninety-year-old grandmother take up wakeboarding. The kind of sheer joy only video games can provide.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
So the cliché of, “this game made me feel like Batman”, has been said so many times it is basically a meme at this point, so I’ll steer clear of it. Instead, I’d argue that this game made me understand Batman the most. This entry to the lore often comes up in discussions regarding the definitive version of Batman. Batman. One of, if not the, most iconic characters in history, and an original story and version of these recognizable characters engineered for a video game ranks higher than decades of films, TV shows and comic books. Speaks for itself really.
Touches like a returning voice cast and the familiar setting allowed you to feel at home in moments within the game, whereas features such as detective mode and the fun platforming and stealth missions satisfied the gamer within us all; without even mentioning the fighting mechanics. Imagine releasing a game with a combat system so perfect, that three sequels can only add minor adjustments that don’t really improve much. A combat system so perfect, that it still influences triple-A titles today, as recently as last year’s GOTY contender Spider-Man. A combat system so perfect, it makes you feel like fucking Batman (I’m not even sorry).
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
You know a game is special when it cements a developer’s status among the best in the business, but Uncharted 2 did this for Naughty Dog with ease. Not only this, but it had a major impact on an entire generation’s console battle, giving Sony a major feather in its cap to make up some ground lost to Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Drake became a PlayStation icon that could hold his own alongside Kratos or Crash Bandicoot, becoming synonymous with the brand. Oh yeah, and this was all achieved within the first few minutes of the game, that damn train carriage.
With immense action set-pieces, immersive shootouts and a cast of characters you will inevitably fall for, Among Thieves may just be the closest thing we have to a playable movie. The significant graphical boost set the bar for all other titles to match, arguably not being surpassed until its own sequel, with the story integrating puzzles, fighting and climbing mechanics so organically. This in turn made the in-game world feel strangely believable, which is no mean feat when the narrative deals with a tree that can make you invincible. Regardless, in a game with this many standout titles, this is the one that took home the most Game of the Year awards, which I think is enough argument alone to warrant a place on this list. But I still don’t think it is my strongest card to convince you with…
This game is an institution, it took over the world. Notch’s creation started its life in 2009 as an obscure little game that did exactly what it said on the tin, let you both mine and craft, which many people dismissed as a virtual Lego knock-off. Instead, what players found was a multi-layered survival simulator, with an instantly iconic look and enemies that could strike fear into your heart with just one sound clip… tssssssBOOM!
From these humble beginnings a decade ago, the ultimate range of this game is mind blowing. You can spend hours having one of the most relaxing experiences in gaming, peacefully constructing your dream house or collecting resources underground, or dive into an action packed (yet totally avoidable) story of your own making, culminating in a battle with a dragon from another dimension. Crazy. Aided by being an initially free to play title, Minecraft soon caught the attention of the gaming market and served to be an incredible showcase of just what these independent developers were capable of; both commercially and critically.
Nowadays, Minecraft is basically guaranteed to appear on every piece of tech capable of running a video game, being a major selling point in the launches of the PS4 and Xbox One, such is the appeal of this titan of a title.
There we have it, my argument for why 2009 was the peak of the industry we all love. It just had something for everybody, with continuations of beloved franchises, as well as some new ones that could appeal to hardcore and causal gamers alike. Many of my standout memories associated with gaming come from this year, be it finally socking the Joker or making my sister cry after cruelly defeating her in a swordplay battle… wait… I mean… Minecraft is fun isn’t it?
You can find more of our “Best Year in Gaming” articles right here.